Staff development is part of the manager's job

"Career development? You must be kidding! There's no place for my employee to go, so why get his expectations up?" 

"I'm no career counselor. I have a job to get done and I can't waste time holding my employees' hands." 

"Career development isn't my job. How do I know what's best for my employee?" 

Managers who hold these attitudes about career development are shortsighted thinkers who are costing your company money. 

Career development is primarily the daily feedback and ongoing coaching that keeps employees on the right track, motivated and growing. 

The responsibility for development is the employee's. The manager's responsibility is to discuss the employee's strengths and weaknesses, provide opportunities to grow, and give clear feedback on the progress. 

It's not the manager's role to find the employee's next job. But it is each manager's responsibility to assess the talent and weaknesses in his or her organization and develop the organization with an eye on the future. 

Here are some common myths that will get you or your company in trouble: 

We'll always have the right people in the right place when we need them.
If managers aren't systematically developing their employees, this is a naive statement. Tougher competition is catching many companies off guard. When a key employee quits or new skills are needed, they're scrambling to patch the hole.

(Idea: Make sure all managers' performance evaluation forms include a section on developing subordinates.)

Send 'em to a seminar.
This quick fix is another patch-job unless several things occur. First, the employee must be confronted with the specific development need. Next, a course should be chosen carefully, based on the need. Last, the boss should schedule a follow-up session to plan a way to use the new skills and ideas back on the job.

The equation is Knowledge + Practice= Skill. Courses are over-used as a development tool. They should never replace coaching and counseling on day-to-day performance and people issues.

(Idea: Ask an employee to present a few key points to the rest of the team when he returns from a seminar.)  

He's too old to develop.
This myth can seriously hurt a company. If steps aren't taken to challenge an experienced employee, motivation dips and performance problems begin. If valuable expertise is not tapped or transferred to other employees, the company loses a major investment.

(Idea: Hold the employee accountable for identifying and developing a replacement two to five years before retirement.)  

She's too new to develop.
A new employee's first priority is to learn her job. This doesn't happen by osmosis. She needs exposure to key people and procedures. Corporate values and idiosyncrasies need explanation. Frequent coaching and feedback sessions are needed to ease the newcomer into the new culture.

(Idea: Make a list of people from which your new employee can learn. Help him or her make contact through planned interviews, projects or lunches.)  

He's an expert in his field. He doesn't need to learn more.
Experts don't stay experts unless they keep up to date. Also, experts tend to be narrowly focused on their specialty. To get the most out of an expert, sponsor attendance at advanced consortiums. Allow the expert to visit other advanced specialists in his or her field. Finally, explore opportunities to broaden his or her exposure to the bigger picture.

(Idea: Lend the expert to departments or teams for extended periods, much like a contracted outside consultant.)  

He's happy where he is and doesn't want to move up or do anything different. Development on the job is critical if a satisfied employee is to stay that way. Even the best employee knows there are things he or she could do better. Growth doesn't always mean up.

(Idea:Ask your employee to list three top strengths and three areas to improve. Compare your list with your employee's and discuss specific ways to improve in the coming year.)  

We're too busy to develop people.
The notion that the job takes care of developing people is true to an extent. However, most people feel cheated if they don't think their boss cares about their personal growth. Frequently, busy people are busy on the wrong things, or personality conflicts erupt because of added stress.

(Idea:Develop on the run by walking to a meeting with your subordinate. Point out one thing to try during the meeting-based on a previous discussion about the employee's development. On the way back from the meeting, provide feedback.)  

She's too valuable to promote or rotate. We need her where she is.
Corporate selfishness hurts the employee and the company in the long run. A valuable employee must be required to develop a replacement, or the company will be in trouble if she's hit by the proverbial truck or quits. An employee like this knows when she's held back and resents it.

(Idea: Identify a replacement for every key employee and how many years it will take that replacement to be ready. Ask the employees for written development plans spanning the appropriate time frame for each of their anonymous replacements.) 

Planned, systematic development keeps employees challenged and the organization healthy and ready for the future. Companies that don't take it seriously are surviving hand to mouth. 


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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